[ISN] The Feds' Top Hacker Speaks

From: InfoSec News (isnat_private)
Date: Tue May 07 2002 - 23:23:43 PDT

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    By Sharon Gaudin
    May 7, 2002
    One man is known for attacking the computer networks at various
    government agencies in the United States.
    His photo, along with a warning to not give him admittance to the
    building, is posted all around the Beltway. He may not necessarily be
    the most popular guy in town but 24 government agencies, like the IRS
    and the Department of Agriculture, are more secure because of him.
    Keith A. Rhodes, chief technologist with the U.S. General Accounting
    Office, makes it his business to attack the networks so he can find
    any holes and seal them up before a malicious attack can take
    advantage of them.
    Rhodes and his team run penetration tests 10 times a year, and they
    never fail to break in. Here he talks about what companies should be
    doing to protect themselves, what risks are looming ahead and what
    exciting security technology is coming down the road.
    Q: How good are U.S. companies at protecting their computer networks
    and their information?
    It's uneven. Some firms are very, very good and they tend to be banks,
    the stock exchange and other financials. The day-to-day
    run-of-the-mill business is not all that good. That's one of the myths
    that needs to be dispelled -- that the government is the only one that
    doesn't know how to do security. Because of the testing work the
    government does, they actually do it better than the private sector.
    Q: What are companies doing right?
    They are laying out firewalls. They are putting routers that filter
    packets and filter IP addresses. They are doing more employee
    awareness. They are installing better login authentication systems.  
    They are doing secured conferencing more than the government is. But
    it's still uneven. You go to some firms and you see all those things
    in place. You go to some other firms and see next to nothing in place.
    Q: What isn't working when it comes to corporate security?
    The chief security officer is not in the boardroom. The CIO is not
    speaking for security. The CIO is speaking for the business function,
    and I accept that because he is a business director. What cache does
    the security officer have with executives in the company? If he
    doesn't report to a top executive, the company isn't taking security
    seriously. If the CIO and the CTO are in the top box and the CSO is
    just outside the box, they've got to rearrange their priorities. If
    the CSO isn't in the boardroom, then the company goes forward at its
    own peril.
    Q: What is the biggest corporate security threat today?
    Industrial espionage -- someone trying to steal your idea. This is an
    idea game. Somebody wants to steal your patents, or your first
    production line item, or how you're going to bid on a contract. They
    want the normal stuff that any other business wants. Don't try to nail
    it down to an individual country. Everybody in the global market is in
    business for themselves, and they'll come after you one way or
    another. They'll see you at a conference and they'll come after you
    there. They'll say they're a grad student doing some research. People
    are going after your information like nobody's business.
    Q: What security risks are looming ahead that IT executives should be
    preparing for?
    One of these days in the not so distant future, your PDA, your laptop
    and your phone will be one appliance. It will be video and it will be
    voice. It will be everything to you. When you have everything in one
    place, then it becomes very dangerous. If somebody does the digital
    equivalent of a smash and grab, you could lose everything -- all your
    information. That's what people need to worry about. If you keep your
    entire digital life and your corporate plan and everything else all in
    one place, when somebody gets it physically or virtually, then you're
    Q: What security technology is coming down the pike that you're the
    most excited about?
    There are some tools that are coming to secure this all-in-one
    laptop/desktop device. High levels of encryption are coming. We'll be
    able to get the entire corporate network security structure in a
    handheld device. I've seen some prototypes and it's really quite
    exciting. The chips are small and high-powered. You can put them into
    these smaller devices and it's amazing to see the miniaturization of
    the technology. And some national labs are working on quantum
    cryptography -- basing cryptology on sub-atomic particles. They're
    using the vibrations of atoms to generate random numbers. It's nano
    technology in terms of very, very small locks for your data.  
    Molecular-size security devices.
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